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Passage Maker - - Shop Talk - —Art Har­ri­gan Seat­tle, Wash­ing­ton

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elec­tronic chart, noth­ing was right with the world. Con­trary to ev­i­dence, we were ap­prox­i­mately 150 feet in­land on Mother Earth with no water nearby.

A more daunt­ing ex­pe­ri­ence oc­curred sev­eral years ear­lier (we have done a 1,400-mile round-trip into north­ern Bri­tish Columbia from Camp­bell River each year start­ing in 2003). We made our first trip through Gun­boat Pas­sage in roughly 2004. Gun­boat is the short­est route from Bella Bella to Fis­cher Chan­nel and parts north. There are a few nar­row pas­sages in Gun­boat. We were pro­ceed­ing east, and ac­cord­ing to the elec­tronic chart we were just to the south of a red chan­nel marker, which was, there­fore, on our port side. For­tu­nately, vis­i­bil­ity was ex­cel­lent, the pa­per chart we were also us­ing showed that we needed to keep the buoy to star­board, and it was in fact on our star­board side—just look out­side. Ac­cord­ing to the elec­tronic chart, we were aground.

Which brings me to my fa­vorite nav­i­ga­tion story, but it does not in­volve elec­tronic charts—they did not ex­ist yet, nor did GPS for plea­sure boats. We had just ac­quired a 48-foot Hat­teras in part­ner­ship with an­other cou­ple. Af­ter a very rough tran­sit of the Straits of Juan de Fuca and a rest­ful night we went ex­plor­ing in the boat the next day near Henry Is­land (ad­ja­cent to San Juan Is­land).

My wife and I knew those wa­ters ex­tremely well, hav­ing owned a cabin on Henry Is­land and hav­ing been there in smaller boats for many years. We were head­ing through Mos­quito Pass from Open Bay us­ing the ship chan­nel, which is around 40 feet deep. Prob­lem was the sounder on the fly­bridge was not work­ing. So I asked my part­ner, Paul, to go be­low to the pi­lot­house and give me ac­cu­rate depth in­for­ma­tion.

He soon re­ported, “15.” That’s odd, I thought, since we were in the mid­dle of the chan­nel. I slowed down and he re­ported “10.” I slowed down again. “7,” slowed futher. “2.” I stopped, went into neu­tral, and ran back and forth on the bridge look­ing for the rocks we must have just hit. “Zero,” he yelled out.

It de­vel­oped, of course, that my boat part­ner had been read­ing in­for­ma­tion off the speedome­ter and so, the slower I went, the shal­lower it be­came.

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